Physical demands of an individual sport vary within the sports level, location, and intent. Codifying them therefore requires an understanding of not only the sport as a whole but the nuances that come with the above.
One of the best things about being sent to a NZ rugby club was learning to play rugby in that style. Coming back and playing for an English club meant learning a whole new style of playing. The respective sport theory paradigms suit different players. The same concept applies to all types of coaches. An excellent coach may fail whilst coaching in one country just down to the fact that the sport paradigm they are working under (or pushing) isn’t the paradigm that the players understand (or buy in to). The same applies to the coach assigned to improving the physical preparation of the athletes.
All this is to say, to get down the demands of a sport you have to understand the sport as a whole, the intent in which the sports coach wants the athlete (or team) to perform, the level the athlete is currently performing at, the level the athlete wishes to perform at, and the multitude of subtleties that come along with this.
If we take the sport of Mixed Modal General Physical Preparation (MMGPP, we all know what sport I’m talking about) as the sport we are going to take as an example (much more interesting than powerlifting) then the levels, as defined by James Fitzgerald of Opex, are:
“Local: Inclusive participation, optimal Movement rather than full expression. Generally absolute or strict relative strength (strength, or speed, or dynamic)
State: Begins to challenge expression of many areas of MMGPP. Low complexity. Capacity tests mainly cyclic but could include muscle endurance-based movements or dynamic BW movements without fatigue
Regional: Challenged in all areas of mixed modality (still low on fatigue). Similar style to above but w/ more volume & complexity. (batteries, ascending ladders, & maxes + dynamic contractions. Capacity tests not limited to the above but also could be dynamic BW movements under fatigue
World: Full expression of all MMGPP qualities with fatigue induced within events. Absolute and strength speed are tested in all areas of maximums and fatigue. Dynamic body weight contractions are tested for volume and capacity. Bodyweight relative strength and strict contractions make an appearance. A test for high skill level and isolation of this skill level for bodyweight relative strength contractions is appropriate. Capacity testing creates a higher challenge now in cyclical volume and
variances in movements.”
In a graphical format, for my mixed model athletes, it looks something like this (although it will and should change depending upon when in the season you are):
I’ve attached arbitrary numbers to what I deem to be a level of importance within a mixed modal sport. (note: as soon as I have seen research into the levels of individual physical quality comparisons and their needs within mixed modal sport i’ll be updating this). For other sports, such as rugby, performance metrics have plenty of data (see below). Likewise, single metric sports (track and field, powerlifting, weightlifting etc.) the metrics are obvious.
This now gives us guidelines, however self-imposed, of a sports demand. A similar approach can be implemented to outline any positional demands that fall within a sport. However, in my opinion, whilst the demands of, say, a lineman vs a safety (gridiron) are hugely different, and thus programming on a positional level is hugely different. There will still be underlying characteristics from a human and sports point of view which should be addressed before positional demands. For example, I’m sure we have all heard the lament of some college and higher-level gridiron strength coaches that the high school athletes can’t squat. So, whilst personally I'm of the opinion that a traditional barbell back squat isn’t a great thing for most athletes, I would like all humans to be able to complete an excellent bodyweight squat within their structural limitations.
Next: I’ll skip over positional demands and talk about building the actual training process from the bottom up.